The Portland Timbers are in Quebec today to take on the Montreal Impact. The Timbers have been in fine form on the road recently and, as they face the worst team in MLS this season, will be expecting to come home with three points.
In a strange turnaround from their record in MLS through 2013, the Timbers have been surprisingly competent on the road this year while struggling at home. A big part of the Timbers' road success has been the more conservative, often counter-attacking style that the team has run out away from home. Although the Timbers have scored fewer goals on the road, 1.22 goals per game, than at home, 1.91 goals per game, they have also allowed markedly fewer, with 1.33 goals allowed per game on the road while allowing 1.91 goals per game at home.
The Timbers will be relying on recent debutee Liam Ridgewell to continue their defensive solidity on the road. Now with two week of training with the Timbers behind him, Ridgewell should be starting to gel properly with his teammates. Hopefully for this Timbers this increased cohesion will lead to fewer miscommunications along the back line and let the Timbers cut out some of the errors that have consistently cost them points this year.
Who will be lining up alongside Ridgewell is still an open question for the Timbers. Pa Modou Kah may still be out with achilles tendinitis, but Norberto Paparatto appears to be back in the rotation following three weeks off with an ankle knock. Paparatto will compete with Danny O'Rourke, who has been solid but not spectacular as a makeshift centerback for the Timbers in recent weeks.
On the attacking end of things, the Timbers will also be faced with a choice as both Fanendo Adi and Maximiliano Urruti will be fully available for the first time since Adi joined the Timbers in late May. The Timbers have been limited in their selection possibilities recently as Urruti recovered from a knock, but after a successful return to the lineup against the Colorado Rapids last week, he should be back to full fitness now.
Of course, the Timbers have the possibility of switching up the entirety of their attack, rather than just the No. 9. For the last three games the Timbers have started Steve Zakuani out wide on the left alongside Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe. With Zakuani on the pitch, the production from the Timbers' attack has been lacking and a like for like change with Rodney Wallace is a possibility or the Timbers could go all out and insert Gaston Fernandez into the lineup, either on the left or taking over in the center of the park.
The Impact have suffered through a terrible year so far in 2014, only picking up a paltry 14 points so far on the season. Having struggled with injuries, suspensions, and a general drop off in quality from some key contributors, the Impact are buried at the bottom of the table.
At home, however, the Impact are not terrible, just bad. With a record of 3-4-2, identical to the Timbers' road record, all but three of Montreal's points have come at the Stade Saputo. Given the long trip to Montreal and the intense support enjoyed there, it is not too surprising that the Impact have been significantly better at home than they have been on the road.
Primed to take advantage of the that home field advantage are the Impact's two most potent attacking threats, Marco Di Vaio and Justin Mapp.
After a series of injuries earlier in the season, Di Vaio is starting to return to the form that saw him challenge for the MLS Golden Boot in 2013, scoring 20 goals in 33 games. This year he has only been able to notch four goals in thirteen appearances thanks both to his own struggles with form and a lack of service from his teammates.
The one Impact player who has been providing the team consistent service this year is Justin Mapp. The 30-year-old winger leads Montreal with seven assists so far on the season thanks to his accurate crossing from out wide, something that the Timbers defense will need to be wary of.
When they are not swinging in crosses from out wide, the Impact have looked dangerous thanks to the late arriving runs from their midfield and, occasionally, defense. In Wednesday night's match against Real Salt Lake that Montreal lost 3-1, the lone Impact goal came from a low shot from centerback Hassoun Camara, whose late arrival to the top of the box, gave the RSL defense one more run than they could handle.
Watch it on: ROOT Sports
Kickoff: 5:00 PM PT at Stade Saputo in Montreal, Canada
Portland Timbers: 5-6-9, 7th place in the Western Conference
Montreal Impact: 3-11-5, last place overall